I get an email almost every week from my state Representative, Cynthia Davis. Some of the information she provides is useful, but when she starts stating her ill-advised opinions, it makes me want to scream. In this weeks letter she distorts the HPV Vaccination:
Two Sides of the HPV Vaccine
You may have heard that there is a new vaccine to protect girls from getting Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer. While medical technology seems to have paved the way for improved quality of life once again, there are some deeper philosophical considerations that should be weighed.
1.) Solution?—This is the first vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease. Will some be injured under the false notion that they will be protected against all sexually transmitted diseases? There are other diseases that are deadly and common for which there is no vaccine.
2.) Pressure—Will girls feel that it is okay to have premarital sex because they have been vaccinated? Will boys demonstrate less responsibility because the girl has been vaccinated? There will never be a vaccination against the emotional damage that may occur when people share intimacy outside of a lifelong commitment.
3.) Cost—It may cost about $400 to vaccinate one girl. The target group will be girls who are 11-12 years old. Who will pay for this—the taxpayer or the insurance companies? Either way it comes back to one segment of society picking up the tab for a lifestyle choice of another.
This vaccine treats the symptom rather than getting to the root of the problem. There is nothing inherently wrong with this vaccine, but it is not going to solve all of the problems surrounding the complexity of teen sex. The kind of parental involvement kids need today includes far more than just taking your child to the clinic to get another vaccine.
My brain went into overdrive as I read her email. I screemed out in agony, which made some coworkers look at me a little funny, but most of them just shrugged and went back to work*.
I can’t say that Cynthia’s response is a complete surprise, in fact it was predicted.
Focus on the Family, a conservative social organization located in Colorado Springs, CO, has decided to oppose the mandatory vaccination of young girls for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a virus linked to the formation of cervical cancer. Recently the FDA has approved a vaccine for two of the high risk (more likely to form cancer) subtypes that has proved very effective (over 90%) at preventing HPV infection in girls when administered before sexual activity.
Their rationale is as follows:
— No vaccine is 100% effective against disease– There are more than one hundred sub-types of HPV and the current vaccines being tested are effective against, at most, four of these
— The sub-types of the virus that these vaccines protect against are the cause of most but not all cases of cervical cancer
— The possibility of HPV infection resulting from sexual assault, including date rape
— The possibility that young persons may marry someone previously exposed to and still carrying the virus
— The HPV vaccines do not protect against other STIs or prevent pregnancy
— The HPV vaccines do not, in any circumstance, negate or substitute the best health message of sexual abstinence until marriage and sexual faithfulness after marriage.
It just turns out thatthis vaccine Gardasil was demonstrated to be 93% effective in preventing cytological abnormalities and 95% effective at prevent cervical infection. Let’s contrast that with some other vaccines. During the 1980s, there was a polio outbreak in Taiwan during which the direct effectiveness of the polio vaccine was tested. The effectiveness was found to be “to be 82% after one dose, 96% after two doses, and 98% after three or more doses.” I suppose we shouldn’t be prescribing that either.
The argument is shreaded in detail via the link above. It also links to this coverage on the vaccine by Diane Carman of the Denver post:
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is the cause of more than 70 percent of cervical cancers – the second-highest cause of death for women around the world. The HPV vaccine could save thousands of lives in the U.S. each year and hundreds of thousands worldwide. As breakthroughs go, this is monumental.
Much like the pill did 46 years ago, this vaccine could dramatically reduce one risk of being sexually active.
From another Science blog – Terra Sigillata
Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is responsible for the majority of cases of cervical cancer. From the American Cancer Society website:
The disease kills more than 288,000 women worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. In the US, cervical cancer is expected to strike more than 9,700 women in 2006, and kill about 3,700.
Religious conservative attempts to try and deny access to the newly-approved HPV vaccine might actually make me go to church this morning…to open up a few cans of whoop-ass.
As Prof Stemwedel intimated on Thursday, to politicize a US FDA-approved vaccine and keep it from being deemed ’standard of care’ could result in lack of vaccine access to children of the poor.
Enough already. Believe what you wish but get out of the way of public health.
Does the US religious right really want to be responsible for the deaths of more young American women every year than the total number of people killed in the 11 September terrorist attacks?
But enough of general facts, lets tear apart Cynthia’s arguments:
Will some be injured under the false notion that they will be protected against all sexually transmitted diseases? That’s great logic. Let’s not vaccinate against Polio because people might think it protects them from Malaria. People need to be educated about the availability of the vaccine anyway, that education can include – THIS DOESN’T PROTECT YOU AGAINST STD’s, it just minimizes the risk of cervical cancer later in life.
Will girls feel that it is okay to have premarital sex because they have been vaccinated? Will boys demonstrate less responsibility because the girl has been vaccinated? There will never be a vaccination against the emotional damage that may occur when people share intimacy outside of a lifelong commitment. WHAT!? First of all, a vaccine is not going to make a teen more or less promiscuous are responsible. All you can do is provide teens with the information and hope they make good choices. And what is the B.S. about “emotional damage” from intimacy outside a “lifelong commitment.” You may feel crummy about what you did after a one-night stand, but is she suggesting that you will have emotional scaring because you had sex with someone and didn’t live with them until death. Does that mean that getting married puts you at a 50% risk for emotional scaring since about half of all marriages fail? And I’m sure there is no emotional damage when you are in a lifelong committed relationship and your partner dies of cervical cancer because she didn’t get a simple vaccine.
It may cost about $400 to vaccinate one girl. The target group will be girls who are 11-12 years old. Who will pay for this—the taxpayer or the insurance companies? Either way it comes back to one segment of society picking up the tab for a lifestyle choice of another. What’s the cost of treating Cervical Cancer? I would venture it’s a heck of a lot more than $400.
This vaccine treats the symptom rather than getting to the root of the problem. No, this vaccine prevents Cervical Cancer. It is not meant to prevent teen pregnancy or teen sex, it is meant to prevent a virus that is a frequent precursor to Cervical Cancer.
More HPV vaccine info:
* slight writers embellishment .